While Heard Island is technically Australian territory, it’s closer to Antarctica; the uninhabited islands are about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to the southernmost continent. Late last month, Big Ben erupted, and the scientists on board the CSIRO research vessel Investigato captured unusually good video of the activity — a rarity, despite the fact that Big Ben has been erupting periodically since 1881.
Though no humans live on Heard Island, its ecosystem boasts many flying birds — yup, penguins too — as well as a diverse amount of marine life. Heard has been a bountiful source of study in the conservation community since 1874, and the eruption has been heralded as an important environmental interaction for attending scientists.
“Monitoring these types of eruptions tells us about how lava interacts with ice, which can be quite spectacular,” Monash University Associate Professor Steven Micklethwaite told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The eruptions were once-in-a-lifetime events for scientists on board.”
Watch the footage below.